Sometime after the publication of the book, the river Bain once more came to my notice when Richard Walker fished the second of a three leg match on the river against Tom Sails, the Lincoln AA team captain in the early 1950's. For many years I had planned to fish the water but as usual I never found the time. Recently I was approached by a film company 421 Productions, to make a series of programmes about the countryside including some of its characters, the wildlife and do a bit of fishing. This was my chance to pay tribute to a couple of great anglers, Ingham and Walker.
I paid my first visit to the river on the 13th of February. Stopping off at Horncastle to seek advice on the fishing available, I was told there was some fishing at Coningsby. I was told to 'Just take the A153'. After driving a few miles along the A153 I spotted a garage at Haltham where I decided to stop and seek further information. I was in luck. The garage proprietor Alan Gunn, an angler himself, told me where to fish and said "The only permit you need is an EA rod licence". Thanking Alan for his help I made my way to the river as instructed.
The Bain really did look great in the bright sunshine, it was high and coloured. I do enjoy fishing a river that is carrying some extra water. In a short hour-long session legering crust and flake baits I caught five chub averaging some two and a half pounds each. I got bitten off by one fish and pricked two others. I was more than happy on the drive back to my friends home where I was staying and decided to come back the next day for a longer session before heading north and home.
Wednesday February 14th was certainly a day made for angling with its delightful spring-like weather. Light wind, blue sky and bright sunshine. The latter wouldn't be a problem today as the river would still be high and coloured. Today I was accompanied by 68 year old Ken Greenall, of Mablethorpe, Lincs a retired engineering fitter who was doing the driving. Ken really enjoys his match fishing and is a member of the Louth Hotel A.C. in Mablethorpe.
Overnight there had been a very heavy frost but I didn't think that would stop the chub from feeding. We stopped in Horncastle where I picked up two loaves of bread and some luncheon meat for the fish and a couple of pork-pies for myself. The Florist shop was certainly having a busy day. Then I noticed the sign St Valentines Day. Oh, that's the reason why so many guys were out buying flowers, I thought. For me it was going to be a day of chub chasing!
Driving up the river Bain valley was a most delightful experience. As I wasn't driving I could look around the countryside. Pheasants, rooks, pigeons and herons were everywhere looking for food. No doubt the herons were stalking frogs and toads which are on the move at this time of the year, making their way to the ponds of their birth. For the rooks though, it wasn't just food, they were also nest building. Snow drops were about in profusion with the odd groups of crocuses. Many of the well sodden fields had small ponds due to all the rain. The ducks just loved these new feeding grounds.
After several miles of driving we turned off the busy A road on to a minor B road then once more pulled into Haltham Garage for a chat with Alan Gunn. Again he filled me in with a lot more information on the river and its fishing. He was a most helpful guy. Shaking hands I thanked him once more for his help and bid him goodbye.
Back in the car we drove about a mile along the road to the spot Alan had suggested. We parked up and as I looked across to the river it looked delightful. Time to look around. We were in luck, we had the river to ourselves including all the swims with bushes or trees and a small weirpool. The river was still highly coloured and flowing fast. The gauge gave a river height of three feet. I checked the water temperature it was 43 degrees F. Conditions were good.
I decided to start off fishing the weirpool then slowly work my way upstream, chucking baits into all the likely looking spots. Ken chose to pole fish further downstream in the slower water. My tackle choice was quite simple; An Avon action rod, centre pin reel, 6lb fluorocarbon line and a size 4 Partridge barbless hook I would pinch shot on the line as and when I needed to. After so many years of talking and thinking about the river Bain I was ready to fish the river for the second time in two days.
I spent probably some ten minutes or so looking at the swirling water trying to work out where the chub were likely to be waiting for food to be swept down to them. I picked a small area of water about the size of a decent kitchen table close to the far bank and fed in a small ball of mashed bread. I pinched two LG shot on the line three inches from the hook and baited with was a big bit of crust. With an underhand swing the bait dropped into my chosen swim.
Within seconds a good fish was hooked which bored powerfully upstream in the fast swirling water. For a couple of minutes it was give and take between us but the combination of balanced tackle and skilful handling soon had the fish beaten. This was a good fish, I thought, as it was netted. It pulled the scales down to three pounds six ounces. Not a bad fish from a tiny river on a February day. Out with another chunk of crust. Within seconds I noticed the line had gone slack. I tightened into another fish, which again bored powerfully upstream. After some three or four minutes I had the fish coming towards the net. This must go four pounds I thought as it was engulfed in the folds of the net. I weighed this one and it went four pounds ten ounces. I was more than happy! I was like a kid with half a dozen Christmases all in one. To make the session even better it was beautiful spring-like day.
I sat for a while just talking with a couple of ladies who were out walking and bird spotting. As they moved on a guy turned up to ask about the fishing available. I gave him all the information I could, pointing out some of the swims where it's possible to catch chub and showing my simple tackle set up. After a nice break in the warm sunshine I resumed fishing. Once more casting big bits of crust upstream then letting it roll downstream, watching the line like a hawk and feeling for anything that might be a take. Several casts later and no bites, I made my way over the river by the way of a small bridge then settled in close to the weir apron. Once more I cast a big bit of crust into the fast swirling water that was flowing up towards the weir and sat holding the rod feeling for a bite.
Suddenly a voice behind me said "Caught anything" I turned to see Alan. "Yes. Two nice chub, best at four pounds ten ounces both on bread". As we sat chatting I felt the line tighten, the answering strike connected with a heavy fish. "Got a good chub this time Alan, must go five pounds or more - it's a heavy fish!" After a couple of minutes I had my first glimpse of the fish. No chub this, it was a bream - but not a skimmer - this was a big fish. In fact, when I got another look I realised it was a very big fish indeed! After a couple of minutes I had the fish coming towards the net, then it was mine as it sunk into the folds of my big landing net. It looked huge and completely out of place on this tiny river.
Turning to Alan I said "That's a bloody big bream, we will have to weigh this one". Out with the scales and the weigh net was zeroed. The fish pulled the needle round to nine pound six ounces. I found it hard to believe and said so to Alan. We re-checked the scales to ensure they were accurate. They were. We weighed the fish once more. Again the scales gave a reading of nine pounds six ounces. I told Alan who had guided me to the successful swims "That's my best ever river bream in England". The adrenaline was pumping through my body. I was on a high, the sun was shining and I had been very lucky in catching a big bream, and not the chub I was fishing for. But I couldn't care less! I was more than happy.
I fished on in a bit of a dream and didn't get another bite. With the sun going down, a cold mist spread across the fields. Ken and I packed up and made the long journey home. I shan't forget St Valentines Day 2001 for a long time. Sadly Ken didn't get a fish even when he changed over to legering bits of bread. Still that's fishing.